Last Thursday, my beloved dog Bear made his final trip to the vet.
|A rainy day in Indian Heaven Wilderness|
I knew it was coming. Bear was over 14 years old. His hips and back legs were failing, and the doggy ibuprofen he'd been taking for several months wasn't keeping pace with the pain. He couldn't make it through the night without pooping in the house, so we had to sequester him in the bathroom (which he hated). But those of you who've had pets know how much they become members of the family. I just couldn't bring myself to make that final appointment. Finally, my kids and husband convinced me it was time to say goodbye.
|On Hamilton Mountain|
It all began back in 2003. My daughter, spotting a cute puppy in the local pet store, asked me if we could have a dog. Not wanting to be the bad guy, I told her to "ask your father," thinking my hubby would nix the idea. My bluff was called when Denise posed this question to her Dad, and surprisingly he said yes.
|Denise and Bear|
By then, the cute puppy had already been adopted, so my kids and I visited the Oregon Humane Society on a quest for our new best friend. At first, I was less than impressed. Most of the dogs were barking furiously as we passed by, and I didn't want a loud barker. But then Denise discovered a black and white dog huddled in the corner, looking sad. A tag on the door said his name was Bear.
|McNeil Point, above the shelter|
After taking him out to the exercise area, Denise and Bear connected instantly. A week later, we were loading him into our minivan.
|Bear loved his Frisbee|
Over a year old, Bear had already lived a hard life. His former owners surrendered this wonderful dog because they couldn't afford to care for him (the shelter staff also hinted that divorce and domestic violence were involved). Bear was dangerously thin, filthy dirty, and suffering from Kennel Cough (he'd never been to a vet for vaccinations). When we brought him home, Bear was also recovering from being neutered (the Humane Society "fixes" all their animals prior to adoption).
|"C'mon mom, put down the camera and let's go!"|
My daughter instantly bonded with Bear. She took him for daily walks, was responsible for feeding, and even cleaned up the poop! She taught him to do tricks, and he slept in her room every night. A shy, skittery dog, it took Bear a little more time to connect with the rest of my family. But once he realized this was home, Bear opened up to us all, and took his job of keeping track of us seriously. We became his "pack."
|Enjoying the flowers|
We never determined Bear's exact lineage, but always assumed it was mostly Border Collie. A little research discovered this breed needed to have a "job" or they started causing mischief. By accident, we discovered Bear loved to play fetch, and found he was a great Frisbee catcher. Playing Frisbee every day became Bear's "job" and he did it well. In his prime, Bear could jump and catch a Frisbee in midair. He was deadly accurate, and rarely missed.
|Ready for another Frisbee throw!|
Never have I seen a dog who loved his Frisbee as much as Bear. He'd carry it in his mouth on walks to the park, and soon was known in our neighborhood as the "Frisbee dog." Bear's way of greeting someone new was to drop a Frisbee at their feet, and look hopefully up at them. Little kids were his favorite playmates, and Bear didn't care if their throws were short - he'd faithfully fetch the Frisbee and return it to their feet.
|Classic "Border Collie crouch"|
During the day, when Roger and I were at work and the kids at school, we'd leave Bear in our fenced backyard. Bear, who took his house watching job very seriously, didn't like being someplace where he couldn't see out front. He was such a smart dog, Bear figured out ways to escape from our backyard, and gained his freedom countless times. He never wandered far - we always found him sitting on our front doorstep. In the house, he'd stare out our living room window, keeping an eye on the activity in our front yard. A knock or chime of the doorbell brought out a round of ferocious barking - that is, until the person walked inside, where they were greeted with a Frisbee dropped at their feet.
|Bear demonstrates his amazing jumping abilities|
Bear and I bonded over our love of hiking. After taking him on a few quick rambles in the Gorge, I discovered Bear was happy bounding down a trail. But he never traveled far, always keeping his "people" in sight. When hiking with a large group, his herding instincts kicked in. Bear would run back and forth on the trail, checking on his "herd," making sure everyone stayed together. We always joked Bear traveled twice the distance of anyone else.
|Near Dollar Lake, Mt. Hood|
I often hike by myself, and Bear made a great companion on those solo trips. I can think of a couple instances where I'd lost the trail, and Bear was the one that found the way. I never worried about wild animals, or creepy people. No was was going to mess with someone who had a dog. Bear would normally run ahead of me a short distance, and then look back as if to say "are you coming?" I have many photos of him staring back at me as if to say "put down the camera and let's go!"
|Flower field, Grassy Knoll Trail|
Bear and I have hiked a countless number of trails both in Oregon and Washington. He's had many trips to the coast, where Bear would run and run along the sandy beach, wearing a big doggy grin. He's come camping with us, and made several trips to both Montana and South Dakota. Roger even tried to take Bear fishing, but that didn't go so well. All Bear wanted to do was fetch the line after it was cast into the water.
|Final beach trip New Year's Day 2015|
The funniest thing about Bear was his obsession with bubbles. He absolutely loved to jump up and pop them. Bear was a very smart dog and knew what a bottle of bubble stuff looked like. He'd get so excited when someone brought out a bottle. Going through my photos, I discovered this video of Bear showing off his finest bubble-popping moves.
Sadly, over the last two years of Bear's life, the hiking, bubble-popping, and finally even the Frisbee catching came to an end. When Bear stopped climbing the stairs to our bedrooms and stumbled going in and out the back door, I knew his days were numbered.
|A gray, old dog|
Our house seems so quiet now. There's an empty spot in the bathroom where his dishes once resided. I already miss Bear's tail-wagging greetings when I come through the door.
He was the best hiking buddy a gal could ever ask for. RIP Bear. I know you're in a better place, but I'm sure gonna miss you.